A national hotline set up by mortgage lenders to help homeowners stay out of foreclosure has fielded more than 2,000 calls from Ohio, where foreclosures have reached “crisis levels,” the Homeownership Preservation Foundation reports.

The average foreclosure can cost a mortgage company $50,000 or more, said Walt Fricke, president and executive director of the Foundation, when the hotline was launched in February.

The foreclosure prevention hotline is being advertised on 90 TV and 141 radio stations around the nation and at www.995hope.org. Ohio residents have made nearly a third of the calls to the hotline, 888-995-HOPE, since a statewide program launched in April, said Lauren Crandall, a spokeswoman for the Foundation.

According to a Foreclosure.com report, new foreclosures rose 11.8 percent in the first six months of the year. The report ranked Ohio sixth on the list of 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, with Georgia, Indiana, Colorado, Michigan and Texas holding the top five spots.

The Foundation — founded in September 2004 with a $20 million seed contribution from GMAC-RFC — is working with NeighborWorks America, which offers face-to-face advice to home buyers at 245 locations around the nation.  

NeighborWorks has 10 locations in Ohio, which are “heavily promoting” the hotline, Crandall said.

Nationwide, the hotline has received 6,468 calls to date, Crandall said. A staff of 75 counselors can handle 10,000 inquiries a month, and traffic has steadily increased to more than 100 calls a day.

“The thrust of our campaign has been to get people to call a lot sooner,” Crandall said. “People would call when they were 120 days late, and the difference in the types of things you can do when somebody thinks they may miss a payment or have already missed one is huge.”

The Foundation and NeighborWorks work with homeowners regardless of who holds their mortgage. The 16 major lenders backing the program are ABN AMRO Mortgage Group, American General Financial Services, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Countrywide Home Loans, Freddie Mac, Homecomings Financial, HSBC North America, National City Mortgage, New Century Financial Corp., Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, Option One Mortgage, State Farm Insurance, Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

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